Urban Legend #3 -Bankruptcy Legend: I do not need a lawyer to file Bankruptcy, all I have to do is complete some forms
Keith Rucinski, Akron, OH
Chapter 13 Trustee
In the United States people can choose to represent themselves in court, including bankruptcy court. The term to represent yourself without counsel is “pro se”.
A lawyer who represents people in bankruptcy does much more than “complete some forms. Good counsel will help their client:
Determine if a bankruptcy is necessary. Sometimes there are alternatives.
Help determine the best bankruptcy option based on the client’s income and property the client wants to retain (house, car).
Review the client’s income and expenses, and develop a monthly budget.
Make sure the bankruptcy forms make full disclosure of all income and property.
Review a client’s credit report so that all creditors are part of the bankruptcy process and receive proper notice.
Review the schedule of allowable exemptions that parties are permitted under the bankruptcy code.
File the necessary notices in state court to stop garnishments and foreclosures.
Represent the client in the 341 meeting of creditors held by the appointed bankruptcy trustee.
Represent the client should creditors object to the bankruptcy filing.
Represent the client at court during the confirmation hearing to approve the bankruptcy plan.
The above is not a complete list of items that bankruptcy counsel perform on behalf of their clients.
People filing without counsel are expected to know the bankruptcy code and court procedures.
The bankruptcy judge is not permitted to give legal advice to parties appearing before the court as the judge must remain impartial in order to render decisions on issues which come before the court.
The bankruptcy trustee is also not permitted to give legal advice to parties. The Trustee does not represent individual parties but is charged with making a recommendation to the court on whether the plan complies with the bankruptcy code.
Bankruptcy counsel is the party that helps people navigate the bankruptcy process. And that help includes a lot more than just completing forms.